Robert’s quick summary:

Victor and Eli were college best friends. “Were” being the operative word.

What was the horrible supernatural discovery that got in the way of their friendship and turned them into lifelong deadly enemies?

And why did they both have to die to discover it?

Vicious tells the story of two once-inseparable friends who became sworn-to-the-death enemies, and the growth of the “EO” or ExtraOrdinary: humans with extra powers.
Vicious is by V. E. Schwab

So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)

1. (Robert) I really liked the different powers imbued by the near death experience: Eli’s self-healing (and effective immortality); Victor’s ability to remove the pain (which wins him a lot of friends!). Excellent and dark story, and well worth the read, despite the mixed reviews. A fair bit of very gory violence, AND it’s pretty scary in places. Not for the very young YA reader (and debatable that it’s included in some YA lists, since it’s only really the inciting incident that is in the typical YA main character age range)

2. (Robert) The characters are all flawed (possibly not very likeable), and almost all of them make bad decisions, though we get the idea that Victor does have a plan, and it’s not an evil one, even though some of the things he does along the way are pretty morbid.

3. (Robert) The tension builds well throughout the story, and we really do want to keep reading to see exactly how Victor will deal with the final – and inevitable – conflict.

What did we think from a writer’s perspective?

1. (Robert) The writing is accomplished and there are some excellent descriptive and often metaphorical passages of prose that are perfectly in tune with this dark and macabre story.

2. (Robert) The POVs and the timeframes hop around like crazy, and even once you are used to it, I found it a bit disconcerting. Overall there is more positive to how the story is told (in this manner) than not, but constantly taking us back 10 years, or 5 days or whatever, can seem to interrupt a perfectly fine buildup in tension, and make it hard to pick up again. However the POV voices are sufficiently distinctive, with is great.

3. (Robert) The action is clever, the dialog quite snappy, and the twists and turns well done. An excellent story for 15s and up, if you can deal with all the frequent shifts in POVs and time settings! Eli is cool and disturbing and Victor is on a mission … and we can’t wait for them to eventually come together in the final fight to the death. Great ending!

Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:

1. A great take on the best friendship and professional jealousy of two super-smart boys, and their evolution into dangerous paranormal enemies. Nice!

2. Great supporting characters! Sydney (she steals the show IMO!) and the extremely scheming Serena.

3. I liked how the EOs get tracked down throughout the book, and that we don’t always know what their powers are until we’re shown them in action – then they come into effect as a plot twist. Nice revelations, as opposed to telling us what we need to discover (eg Harry Potter).

Click here to check out Vicious on Amazon

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I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

Robert’s quick summary:

Jude and Noah, 13 when the story begins, are twins, and like most twins, share a secret language and an-almost telepathic mutual understanding of their desires, frustrations and deepest fears.

But it all goes horribly wrong when the totally cool Brian shows up, the twins’ mother is killed in a horrible car accident, and Noah and Jude are forced to confront the fact that not everything in their history is accurate; not everything that they both wish for will be possible in this new world, and that they have already begun to walk a dangerous path by lying to each other.

If you can’t tell your best friend the truth, then how real will your life ever be?

First love, confusion, desire, friendship and standing up for yourself are all mere bumps when it comes to the whirlwind that is about to hit Noah and Jude.

I’ll Give You The Sun is by Jandy Nelson

So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)

1. (Robert) Fantastic! Brutal. As good as All The Bright Places, and with similar themes. (There are lots of very adult references to sex and drugs, but limited swearing – just the use of “effing” from time-to-time, and the actual word occasionally). This is a story about teens trying to make sense of themselves; coming of age, and what it means to love and explore your sexuality. Throw in death, parental issues, bullying, lies and deceit even among best friends, and there is a potential powder keg, which Nelson pulls us into without warning.

2. (Robert) Told from either Noah or Jude’s POV, and in various different time settings, there is some similarity with Vicious, but in this book it is never confusing, though occasionally frustrating when you have to try to remember where you were last with this character in this time period! However, the mystery is intense, and threads itself (or themselves, since there are multiple mysteries!) through ALL the time periods, which makes for a riveting read.

3. (Robert) Warning: this is an emotional rollercoaster. Every character will take, make and confront choices; emotional conflict and society’s expectations. And there’s an unconventional love story, as well as a secondary conventional one.

Voices: Noah has his “portrait moments” and Jude has her “bible quotes” that really individualize their characters – brilliant use of character “tics” that ADD greatly to the story!

What did we think from a writer’s perspective?

1. (Robert) Expertly written, this is another book I could not write! I love the grandmother’s bible and Jude’s superstitions! I really hope this gets to be made into a movie, as the characters are perfect for a larger-than-life big screen.

2. (Robert) No soft and delicate insipid parents in this story either – this is very real, very honest and believable.

3. (Robert) Brilliant turns of phrase – literary style. “If bad luck knows who you are, become someone else.” I can just imagine the narration from Jude’s dead grandmother through her “bible”!

Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:

1. Wow. An excellent coming of age story with amazing intricacies and heartache.

2. Shows how even the best of intentions can go sour in a second if we withhold the emotional truth of our lives. To put this into a well-crafted and tense story where nothing is action-oriented is amazing.

3. There are some fabulous scenes – conjuring imagery and settings, in the same way as The Scorpio Races, but nothing like the same style. Authors should read this, especially YA! Jandy Nelson seems to represent the teenage angst with such an authentic voice, where the angst hits our gut, and isn’t just some annoying nerd or princess with an attitude, but a real person with fears, hopes … and secrets.

Click here to check out I’ll Give You The Sun on Amazon

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